Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D)|
Last Updated February 11, 2002
seat up 2006
Born: Feb. 24, 1942,
Home: New Haven
Education: Yale U., B.A. 1964, LL.B. 1967
Marital Status: married
- Political: CT Senate, 1970-80, Majority Ldr., 1974-80; CT Atty. Gen., 1983-88.
- Professional: Practicing atty., 1964-80
DC Office: 706 HSOB
202-224-4041; Fax: 202-224-9750; Web site: www.senate.gov/~lieberman
Joseph Lieberman is now a national figure of some eminence after his candidacy for vice president in 2000. He has been admired for some time for his independence of mind, civility of spirit and fidelity to causes in which he believes; and if this reputation was not enhanced by the 2000 campaign, which after all was an inevitably partisan enterprise, it was not badly damaged. Lieberman has always been an intensely political person, balancing a solid allegiance to the Democratic Party with a commitment to intellectual rigor and honesty--a balancing act that is never easy and occasionally impossible. Lieberman grew up in Stamford, the son of a liquor store owner, and was interested in politics early on; he remembers coming home from school at age nine eager to watch the televised Kefauver hearings. He went to Yale College and Yale Law School, became chairman of the Yale Daily News and worked summers for Senator Abraham Ribicoff and the Democratic National Committee. His political ambitions were no secret; other students called him "the Senator." In college he wrote an admiring yet revealing biography of that quintessential political boss John Bailey, Connecticut Democratic chairman from 1946-1975. Writing a book that was intellectually honest enough to pass academic scrutiny but tactful enough not to displease a man who could make or break his political career was a challenge, and Lieberman met it. At the same time, he was not afraid to challenge the political establishment. He helped found a reform and antiwar Caucus of Connecticut Democrats; in 1970 he ran for state Senate in New Haven against state Senate Majority Leader Edward Marcus, and won with help from, among others, a Yale Law student volunteer named Bill Clinton. In 1980 he ran for an open House seat and lost 52%-46%; in 1982 he was elected attorney general, where he took action against fake charities, crooked car dealers and gouging merchants.
In 1988 Lieberman challenged Senator Lowell Weicker, another maverick, but of a different sort. Weicker was well to the left of most Republicans on economic and cultural issues, Lieberman more conservative than most Democrats on cultural issues and foreign policy. Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew--he didn't attend the convention that nominated him because it was held on Saturday, and sent in a videotape instead--and a believer that "we in government should look to religion as a partner, as I think the Founders of our country did." He favored the death penalty and a moment of silence in schools, and opposed Weicker's proposed 30-cent gas tax increase. He ran witty ads, one showing a bear sleeping through work--a nice take-off on the growling but erratic Weicker. Lieberman won 50%-49%; the contest cut across party lines, with Lieberman running well in industrial towns and Weicker in Hartford, college towns and tony towns in Litchfield County.
Lieberman has made a distinctive mark in foreign policy. He was one of the leaders in the fight for the Gulf war resolution in January 1991, and without his earnest but vehement support it might not have passed. Presciently, he called for "final victory" over Saddam Hussein. He is a strong supporter of Israel but favored F-15 sales to Saudi Arabia in 1992; in spring 1998 he spoke against an American ultimatum to Israel. He favored U.S. ground troops in Bosnia and action against Bosnian Serb war criminals. He backed NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. In 1998 he successfully led a fight for sanctions to stop Russia from exporting missile technology to Iran. In 1999 hearings, he said there was "a shocking lack of thoroughness, competence and urgency" in government investigations of the leaking of nuclear secrets to China. In 2000 he cast a vote in a closed-door markup in the Armed Services Committee to authorize five new nuclear submarines, a $10 billion commitment of great benefit to Connecticut's Electric Boat.
On economic issues, Lieberman has backed capital gains tax cuts for small business ("you can't be pro-jobs and anti-business") and urged Bill Clinton to sign the 1996 welfare reform bill--both stands opposed by many Democrats. He is a sponsor of Auto Choice reform, which would allow car owners to opt out of pain and suffering damages and get much cheaper insurance premiums. He and the late John Chafee sponsored a bill to give credit to companies that voluntarily reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. He has supported gun-control measures, but worked to get a gun produced by Connecticut-based Colt removed from the 1994 assault weapon ban and voted against making lawsuits against gunmakers non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. With John McCain, he sponsored the 2000 law required tax-exempt Section 527 groups to disclose their contributors. With Rick Santorum, he sponsored a package of incentives for economic development in poor areas that was double the cost of the Clinton-Hastert plan; the Lieberman bill emphasized individual development accounts, on which tax credits would be given banks that match deposits to special savings accounts.
Lieberman has spoken out eloquently on moral issues. In 1995 he joined with Book of Virtues author William Bennett and criticized gangsta rap records, and shamed Time Warner into selling their Interscope label; in 1998 they said the purchaser, Seagram, failed to keep its promises to clean up the words, and gave it a Silver Sewer award. In highly publicized Commerce Committee hearings in September 2000 he denounced the marketing of violent movies, music and video games with children. But during that fall campaign, after he attended a Hollywood fundraiser and spoke of being a "noodge" to the industry, Bennett criticized him for abandoning their fight against obscenity and violence. One thing that made Lieberman an attractive running mate for Al Gore was the fact that he was one of the few Democrats who was not a lockstep defender of Bill Clinton. He was dismayed by Clinton's August 17, 1998, speech in which he grudgingly admitted lying about the Lewinsky affair for seven months. When the Senate resumed in September, Lieberman took the floor and said, "Such behavior is … wrong and unacceptable and should be followed by some measure of public rebuke and accountablity." But he was persuaded by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle not to call for censure, and he stopped well short of backing impeachment or resignation.
Gore's selection of Lieberman as his vice presidential nominee was history-making: He was the first Jew on a major party ticket in American history. Gore knew Lieberman from the Senate, where they were friends--Gore did not have many close personal relationships with colleagues. But two things probably pushed Gore toward his choice: Lieberman's reputation for probity and denunciation of Clinton, which gave the ticket some insulation from the Clinton scandals, and Lieberman's moderate record on many issues and undoubted ability. Another asset proved to be Lieberman's fervent avowals of religious faith and that it has a rightful place in politics; what might have been resented from a Christian conservative seemed attractive coming from an Orthodox Jew. Lieberman was criticized for his faith talk by the Anti-Defamation League; he replied, "This is really less a matter of programs or legislation than it is of giving respect to the constructive role that faith can play in the lives of individuals and in the lives of the community." Some Democrats criticized him for running for vice president and for re-election as senator at the same time; if he won both, Connecticut's Republican Governor John Rowland could have appointed a Republican replacement.
Overall, Lieberman was clearly an asset to the ticket. His poll ratings were high, and if there was general agreement that Dick Cheney excelled at the October 6 vice presidential debate, Lieberman also performed well; some observers wondered whether the order of the tickets should be reversed. Lieberman's Judaism seems not to have hurt the ticket anywhere, and it probably helped in crucial Florida; he made memorable campaign appearances in heavily Jewish Broward and Palm Beach Counties, which voted nearly 2-1 for Gore (the exact margin, of course, turned out to be in some dispute). But there was some tension between positions Lieberman had taken before August 2000 and what he said during the campaign. He had questioned racial quotas and preferences, and refused to oppose Proposition 209 in California in 1996, which banned racial quotas and preferences by paraphrasing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lieberman told the Black Caucus at the Democratic convention, to great applause, that he had voted against abolishing racial setasides in transportation contracts. Lieberman had supported vouchers for students in the failing District of Columbia schools; he told teachers' union leaders that he was for demonstration vouchers, but overall wanted to put money into public schools. He had said that Social Security was headed on a disastrous course and needed an injection of funds from private markets; but in the campaign he said that the transition costs for George W. Bush's plan were too high. Vice presidential candidates always have to defer to presidential nominees, and turn their backs on some positions they have taken; but did Lieberman have to go quite as far as he did? In the Florida controversy, Lieberman took what to some was a surprisingly partisan role--of course this was a quintessentially partisan issue. On Sunday interview shows he said that he and Al Gore would never challenge legitimately cast military absentee ballots. But on the preceding Friday night lawyers working for the Gore-Lieberman ticket did precisely that, and raised their fists in the air in triumph when the military votes were disqualified.
On Election Day, the Gore-Lieberman ticket carried Connecticut 56%-38% and Lieberman was re-elected to the Senate by a 63%-34% margin over Waterbury Mayor Phil Giordano. Governor Rowland tried to keep Giordano from running, on the theory that a contest would only bring out Democratic votes; the result of the race was never in doubt, and Lieberman did not bother to show up at one debate. The margin was a slight downtick from Lieberman's 67%-31% victory in 1994, but his position in Connecticut seems rock-solid. He returned to the Senate as a major national figure. He had been chairman for several years of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, and in February 2000 helped form a group of moderate Senate Democrats, whose membership swelled to 19 in early 2001. He has the potential to be a major force on bipartisan legislation. The Bush education program was largely modeled on the education bill Lieberman and Evan Bayh introduced in February 2000, which would provide more funding, more local control and more accountability; it was voted down 84-13 in May 2000, but seemed to be the consensus position in 2001. On defense he is a likely partner for new Bush policies. On Social Security, there is some question; will changes in the economic picture persuade him that we can afford to move to individual investment accounts? Lieberman is certainly a strong potential candidate for the presidency in 2004, although he has said he would not run against Al Gore. But he will have to contend, as he has contended throughout his career, mostly successfully, with the challenge of remaining true to his independent beliefs while remaining an effective partisan politician.
|National Journal Ratings|
Key Votes of the 106th Congress
|1. Educ. Savings Accts.
|2. Prescrip. Drug Benefit
|3. Delay Ergonomic Standards
|4. Phase Out Estate Tax
|5. Review Movie Violence
|6. Gun Show Bckgrnd. Checks
| 7. Ban Part.-Birth Abortion||N|
| 8. Broaden Hate Crimes List
| 9. NATO War in Serbia
|10. Table Cuba Travel Ban
|11. Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
|12. Perm. Trade with China
||Joseph I. Lieberman (D)
|Phil Giordano (R)
||Joseph I. Lieberman (D)
||Joseph I. Lieberman (D)
|Jerry Labriola (R)
|2000||Receipts||Receipts from PACs||Expenditures|
|Joseph I. Lieberman (D)
|Phil Giordano (R)
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